or Connect
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Natural Living › The Mindful Home › Frugality & Finances › Tips for Saving on Groceries?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Tips for Saving on Groceries?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Recently you shared your great ideas for inexpensive meal ideas and we turned them into a fun article for Mothering readers.

 

Now we would love to hear your ideas for saving money on groceries! Please share them with us so we can create a helpful article for moms looking to save some cash while not compromising food choices and restrictions. 

 

Thanks for your help!

post #2 of 16

I narrow down the foods I most want my family to eat based on good nutrition and our personal tastes, and try to buy only those foods and make them into a tasty variety of meals and snacks. 

 

This "priority foods" list helps keep impulse buys in check, and ensures we have plenty of the foods we really want to eat on hand.

 

We also buy local and in bulk when we can. Local potatoes are available in 50 lb bags for $10 at our local farm stand! They are not organic, but responsibly grown, and I have learned to take the savings on some local vegetable foods that may be conventional to apply towards meat and milk, which is much more important to have organic and grass-fed because of the bioaccumulation of toxins (like pesticides) in them. 5 conventional potatoes have way less accumulation than meat from a cow that eats tons and tons of conventional grains, etc. 

post #3 of 16

I've started a rotating two week menu that I update every season to reflect the different foods available and changing food tastes of my family through the seasons. This method allows me to build a strong pantry to work from and update as needed. Several of the meals can be doubled or tripled for freezer meals and at least two meals a week are crockpot meals. This menu plan also allows me to plan for utilizing recipes my daughter can assist me with and two weekends breakfasts for my daughter to make with her daddy--one of the little breaks I can manage to sneak into the schedule.

 

I came to this weekly rotating plan after much frugal trial and error. Planning meals around grocery sales, switching up the stores I shop at near weekly to take advantage of deals, and of course couponing. Couponing has never appealed to me, largely due to the processed food issues, but also as I'd much prefer to cook and bake from scratch than drive to several stores hunting down loss-leaders. The latter reason also making the constant ad searching and shopping tasks of which I was/am not a fan. 

 

By settling on one menu, one store, a weekly CSA drop-off, and quarterly buying natural foods buying club purchases to stock the pantry, I can focus on the big picture of staying within the bounds of my family's grocery budget AND providing high quality whole foods while doing so. YMMV. :)

post #4 of 16

The biggest way I have been saving money on groceries is to order in bulk through Azure.  The best prices on organic ever :)  I get one large shipment a month and then I supplement at my grocery store once or twice a month.  The less I set foot in a grocery store the better.  

 

This works for me because I raise my own meat and have my own cows for fresh milk.  We eat the fresh produce from Azure first and then eat the frozen the rest of the month.  I freeze or can extras throughout the growing season to help us out in the winter.

post #5 of 16

Before deciding on meals I go online to see what my local store has on sale that week.  I create menus and my grocery list around that.  

post #6 of 16

The newest thing I'm doing is keeping a pricebook, which helps me track the cost of items I regularly buy. Keeping an eye on prices helps me know what the lowest price available for a certain item is. When it hits that price, or goes lower, I can stock up. If I see it at a higher price, I can pass on it. I've found it is too difficult to track all of this information in my head, so taking a few notes while I shop or when reviewing my receipt. Knowledge is power! 

 

I'm also thinking about reaching out to other moms in my area to collaborate on this. I'm keeping my information in a Google Doc so that I can share my list with others who eat the same kinds of foods. With more people contributing, the list should be even more helpful.

 

There are good sources online that explain how to set up a pricebook. Just Google the term, and you'll find them.

post #7 of 16

In an attempt to get the best food I could, about two years ago I started a local buying club for all sorts of good stuff outside of the meats that I got from another buying club that was run out of DC. As far as being totally frugal, it isn't always but I was getting the best food. I must have been doing something right because I was attracting a lot of families that were on a very tight budget but wanted organic and the best they could get. We ordered weekly as a group from a farm cooperative in Pennsylvania and eventually twice a month from a farm that was soy free. We ordered dates as a group from Date Garden. We would get bulk dried goods and canned/jarred goods from UNFI or Neshaminy (who I preferred to UNFI but their prices were a little bit higher).  Most families would plan their meals around the meat, dairy and produce deliveries while supplementing with their bulk grains. Most made their own breads and pastas when they could. We were paleo so we didn't make a lot of the baked goods although I have taken to doing that now with coconut flour once a week and usually something like scones based in almond flour on the weekends. I make my own coconut milk and flour but I have the gadgets that make it easy. They were investments but they have paid for themselves several times over. We also ordered nuts, seeds, and coconut products from companies like Wilderness Family Naturals.

 

After relocating to a very rural area I am reaching out to other mothers and looking for similar sources because food prices are higher here. I have a friend coming to visit at the end of this week and she has offered to bring me anything I want. I am getting a case of avocado's, most will go in the freezer. I am getting lemons and limes. The lemons will be preserved using lacto-fermentation or freezing as will the limes. The price I am getting is amazing. We also have freezers and scour craigslist for farmer connections for meats. I just connected with a farmer that raises with organic practices and sells her beef for $2.67 a pound hanging weight. I have to grill the farmers sometimes (it's what I expect anyone to do with me) because I need to be sure of their feed and pasture practices and we needed to get a freezer and at times find families to split with but it is very economical. We also keep our own chickens for eggs and rabbits for meat. One thing I know is pricing. I make sure to do all the research I can to confirm the best pricing. Sometimes I also order from places like Amazon and vitacost but that's more unusual.

 

I also have a frontier account so that I can get bulk pricing and coop pricing from them. When I was in DC we ran that monthly. Finding a group of mom's to do this with was/is the best thing I can recommend and it brings a whole new element to your food because you have so many more doors open up when you can purchase in bulk and split it between 5 or more families. I had a friend who ran it with a few other members in her church and I have another friend that has started doing that since moving too far from me (which she did before I moved). Oh, we also sourced maple syrup from a farmer in PA with fantastic pricing and Mike would put it in glass for us if we wished. Just 1/2 gallon mason jars. He also offered maple sugar which I use as an alternative to sugar almost exclusively.

 

namaste

post #8 of 16

First of all, we buy only food at the grocery store, except where the cost of gas makes it worthwhile to buy other items there, too.

 

We've cut way back on processed foods, even the ones on sale or with coupons, because we have learned to make much tastier and more nutritious versions of most of them at home.  Now most processed foods seem bland, somewhat icky, and not at all filling to me.

 

Where we shop, there are two large grocery chains that are in an endless price war.  I glance through the ads each week and see which one has better deals for the kinds of food that we eat.

 

Some areas have a grocery-surplus store that sells excess or slightly damaged products from regular grocery stores.  This kind of store can have some very good deals, though the merchandise tends to vary, and not everything is cheaper.

 

We get many of our staples at Costco, but avoid the fancier foods there.  We get most of our meat at the local meat market, in a biweekly trip, freezing what we won't use in a day or two; the prices are only slightly higher than the grocery store, and the quality is much better. 

 

Once in a while, for a treat, we go to the swank grocery store chain.  The produce is all picture-perfect, the store is clean and quiet, the staff is all very nice, and not all of the prices are higher there.

 

We keep a good stock of olive oil, butter, and spices, these help even the blandest foods taste good.  We don't eat low-fat any more, and fats are very high in calories per dollar.

 

In the winter, especially, I prefer to buy vegetables with longer shelf lives:  carrots, onions, squash, potatoes, rutabagas.  These keep for a long time without spoiling; less waste.  There are also significant cost savings to buying some of these in larger quantities.

 

Leftovers either go to work with my husband for his lunch, or we eat them up on Sunday.  (Ideally.)

 

I've set our grocery budget at enough to keep us decently fed, plus a little extra.  I shop with cash, and keep a running total in my head as I shop, so I don't go over.  I don't worry too much about not having enough money on hand to take advantage of deals because the stores here almost always severely limit quantities on the best deals, and there will always be something else on sale next week, anyway.

 

I shop first, then make a meal plan for the week based on what we have.

 

We've gardened when we had the space, and have learned that weeds like dandelion, milkweed, and lamb's quarter have some edible parts.

 

We had a CSA share for a couple of years, and learned to cook and enjoy a wider variety of vegetables.

 

Sometimes we have been able to can up jars of stew or chili in our canner, it is nice to have some easy meals in the pantry.  Home-canned meats and vegetables also are very convenient.

 

We have a friend with walnut trees, who is willing to give us all the walnuts that we care to haul away:  local free food!

 

I make use of certain leftovers and scraps:  vegetable trimmings and poultry bones and skin are simmered and strained to make broth, leftover grains can go into muffins or the next pot of soup, leftover bread scraps are frozen until I have enough to make homemade stuffing.

post #9 of 16

I shop for most of my spices and baking supplies at Bulk Barn.  I like the reduced packaging, and I like that I can get any quantity that suits me.  It sucks buying 5$ of a spice for a specific recipe only to find out that no one likes it!  At bulk barn (or other natural food stores) I can get how much I need for 0.25 or so usually.  Often organic or harder to find grains and products are there at very good prices as well, where the local chain supermarket charges a premium for the same items if they carry them at all.  I also make my own spice mixes, like taco mix, which costs very little compared to the little packages they sell at the store.

 

I find I can save quite a bit on meat by buying roasts and cutting my own steaks.  Some I put marinade on before freezing so they are already marinaded when they thaw, especially the tougher cuts.  I've learned how to cook and cut tougher meat so that it's still good. 

 

I make my own flavoured oils and vinegars, pancake mix, icing, marinades, popsicles, and pizza dough because they are a significant savings over store bought.
 

post #10 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jen Muise View Post

I shop for most of my spices and baking supplies at Bulk Barn.  I like the reduced packaging, and I like that I can get any quantity that suits me.  It sucks buying 5$ of a spice for a specific recipe only to find out that no one likes it!  At bulk barn (or other natural food stores) I can get how much I need for 0.25 or so usually.  Often organic or harder to find grains and products are there at very good prices as well, where the local chain supermarket charges a premium for the same items if they carry them at all.  I also make my own spice mixes, like taco mix, which costs very little compared to the little packages they sell at the store.

 

I find I can save quite a bit on meat by buying roasts and cutting my own steaks.  Some I put marinade on before freezing so they are already marinaded when they thaw, especially the tougher cuts.  I've learned how to cook and cut tougher meat so that it's still good. 

 

I make my own flavoured oils and vinegars, pancake mix, icing, marinades, popsicles, and pizza dough because they are a significant savings over store bought.
 


Where did you learn to use the tough/cheap meat? Any marinade recipes you could pass on? innocent.gif

post #11 of 16

I spend about $40 a week for a family of 3 omnivores, NOT including a once a year bulk meat purchase from a farmer, twice a year purchase of organic bulk brown rice, coconut oil and organic corn masa purchase and $25 a week CSA in the summer (spend less at the store in the summer).  Pretty much everything I make is homemade. I spend only about 20-40 minutes a day cooking.

 

Here are my top tips:

 

1. Pay attention to the price per pound when shopping. I put back those impulse purchase rice crackers when I saw they were $10 lb, and used the $1 lb bulk purchased brown rice that I already had at home instead.

 

2. Tend towards buying from local farms, Get staples like bulk OG grains online, wholesale or through buying clubs. Honey, eggs and meat are all cheaper and way better quality when you source them locally. (Most grocery store honey is from China and may be flavored corn syrup or contaminated with pesticides and lead. http://www.foodrenegade.com/your-honey-isnt-honey/

 

3. Develop a stable of low cost meals that your family likes. Peasant food from any culture will be pretty cheap. Older cook books like the pre-1962 Joy of Cooking tend toward more frugal recipies than the fancy ingredients used in modern ones, AND give info on cooking the unusual vegtables you may find in your CSA and how to cook various unfarmiliar game meats (if you have any hunters in your life).

 

4. Check out any ethnic groceries in your area. Canned coconut milk is $1 per can cheaper at our asian grocery than the supermarket. Indian groceries are great for bulk spices.  Olives and good quality cheese at Italian groceries, etc.

 

5. The slow cooker is your best friend for cheap meats and for any kind of stew. It's awesome when you have a long day at work to come home to dinner already done.

 

6. The rice cooker is your best friend when you need food soon and didn't make a meal plan. Any kind of grain + protein and veggies in the steamer basket and you have a hands off one pot meal in 20-40 minutes depending on the grain.

 

7. Only buy produce in season (Duh). Go for cabbage, carrots, onions, sweet potatoes in the winter not that out of season $3 tomato. Not only do in season veggies will taste way better,   get really excited when strawberry, watermelon, tomato, sweet corn, apple season etc finally rolls around.

 

8. Start menu planning if you haven't already. Even a vauge plan like we'll have chicken on Sunday, and then chicken tacos on Monday, and then make soup with the bones on Tuesday will save you hundereds over a year, because you actually use leftovers and not be tempted to eat out or get take out because you have a plan.

 

9. Totally cut out convience foods and junk foods. Your family will not miss them*, as long as there are some homemade treats sometimes. Cake and ice cream on birthdays actually become special treats again when you don't have sweets everyday.

*Not sure about teenagers on this one.

 

10. I guess this list pre-supposes- LEARN TO COOK. Keeping your knives sharp makes cooking so much easier. Get some decent cookbooks for inspiration (also check out cookbooks from the library or get recipies on line).  Have fun and learn to cook new stuff!

post #12 of 16
Price booking has been key for me. Knowing the unit price, comparing. I mostly shop where the prices on what I buy most are best. For me that is Trader joes. Then but the irregular odds and ends as suits at the rest.

I also do lots of meat as another flavour cooking, rather than a main.

I second sharp knives.
post #13 of 16

the way I saved  money with my family.

I always cook 1meal for= 2days.

.that way I only cook 3days a week.

 

one day a week mom off day.

they cook for me........

 I have a big cooking book, with pictures and recipes.

 the book name 500  all time great recipes.

 each week everybody pick a meal in the book.

$50 a week .

we IN  Miami florida ft Lauderdale ,

I go to the swap SHOP.

FOR VEG, N FRUITS,  EVERY THURSDAY.$10

FOR MEAT WE GO TO THE MEAT MARKET $20

AFTER THAT WE SHHOP AT SADANOS EVERYTHING VERY CHEAP THERE,THEY DONT TAKE COUPONS.$20. GOOD LUCK.

post #14 of 16

One of the more current things I have been doing which saves my family money is to prepare quick meals ahead of time.  I got a free bread machine and I make pizza crust.  I make pizza and freeze it so that we do not find ourselves ordering out when we are tired or rushing in and out of the house.  I also make large batches of waffles to freeze to save money and offer a quick breakfast option. 

 

Another way that I save is to go to bakery outlets.  There is usually a deal on the number of loaves you buy.  For example I could buy 6 loaves and get 1 free.  I would do this and put them in the freezer.  I also look for clearance bakery bread at Walmart and Smiths.  These loaves tend to be a little more expensive than the outlet but they are more like french loaves instead of sandwich bread. 

 

I have trained myself to buy ahead on staples.  I also rely on seasonal sales and clearance to stockup.  For example I can buy very inexpensive food coloring after Easter.  Taco shells seem to be on sale around Cinco de Mayo.  I have also trained my eye for clearance stickers.  I try to buy natural and organic foods as much as possible.  I find that mainstream grocery stores tend to have natural and organic items on clearance (not in the ad) because of the low turnover.

 

 

I follow coupon match sites for the stores I have in my area.  To prevent a lot of driving around I stick to a couple stores and 1 drugstore. 

 

Our coop has member days which offer a certain percentage off of a 1-time purchase.  I will stock up on bulk items during this time.

post #15 of 16

I get a Bountiful Basket each week, which is a phenomenal deal similar to a CSA - get a bunch of fresh fruits and veggies for $15 and its almost all we need. They also have really good deals on bread which I will get every so often and freeze the extra loaves. Last week I bought 25 pounds of nectarines from which we made jam, wine, liquor, AND dehydrated slices. Buying bulk in season and on sale, then storing in via dehydration, freezing, pickling, canning, etc is by far the best way I have found to cut down on our grocery bill while also eating really tasty and healthy things. We just got a chest freezer and it is AMAZING for storing things that I get for a good deal. 

 

If you have room for any sort of food storage, buying flour/sugar/canned goods in bulk is usually a much better deal. 

 

Look out for good prices on meat to freeze, if I can get something for less than $1/pound or packages of steak that are buy one get one free I am usually all over it. 

post #16 of 16

I love Bountiful Baskets, (we started 6 weeks ago) and I wonder how I ever lived with out them.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Frugality & Finances
Mothering › Mothering Forums › Natural Living › The Mindful Home › Frugality & Finances › Tips for Saving on Groceries?